Sex Pol Debate (Women’s Voice, 1978)

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THE SEXUAL Politics Conference organised by the Socialist Workers Party drew 120 people at the beginning of December.

Although the term ‘sexual politics’ covers a very wide area, discussion centred around four main topics: the family and its future; sexism and how to fight it; the relationship between the gay movement and the revolutionary party; and the importance of sexual politics within the SWP.

The debates on sexism and male chauvinism revealed a divergence of views on how to fight it, and who should fight it. Should women and gays take the lead, or can groups like Men against Sexism play a useful part?

Some delegates advocated consciousness-raising groups to help individuals overcome their internalised oppression and prejudices, while others insisted that individuals only change through collective action, by helping an equal pay strike for instance.

Sexism is important to fascist parties like the National Front, and to their religious hangers-on like the Festival of Light, though they don’t stress this side of their programme for fear of losing women supporters. The fight against fascism is also a fight against the most vicious forms of sexism.

The workshop on Sexism in the Media discussed the way in which the media and advertisers degrade women by using their bodies to boost profits. We also discussed the way women in the news were trivialised. That morning the BBC had a news item about ‘The Grandmother who Sailed Round the World’.

Women could do something to counter this kind of sexism by writing letters to offending newspapers, taking part in local radio phone-in programmes (it would make a change from all the right-wingers on them!), and guerrilla actions such as putting ‘This Degrades Women’ stickers to good use and organising more ‘reclaiming the night’ marches in male chauvinist heartlands.

At the end of the conference the delegates agreed that we should defend gay organisation like CHE and papers like Gay News from the present right-wing backlash, despite their bourgeois base and lack of Marxist politics.

The debate should be continued in every city and in the pages of Womens Voice, Socialist Worker, and IS Journal. The conference should become an annual event.

  • Look out for a Socialist Worker pamphlet on Sexual Politics, out early in 1978.
  • Contact the Socialist Workers Party Gay Group on the following numbers: [xxx] Penny, [xxx] Richard

Sara Morgan

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